Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
When the tabernacle was fully set up, it appeared that the princes of the twelve tribes had prepared six covered wagons, drawn by two oxen each, one wagon for two tribes, for the service of the tabernacle, Num 7:1-3. Moses is commanded to receive this offering, and distribute the whole to the Levites according to their service, Num 7:4, Num 7:5. Moses does so, and gives two wagons and four oxen to the sons of Gershon, Num 7:6, Num 7:7; and four wagons and eight oxen to the sons of Merari, Num 7:8. The sons of Kohath have none, because they were to bear the ark, etc., on their shoulders, Num 7:9. Each prince is to take a day for presenting his offerings, Num 7:10, Num 7:11. On the first day Nahshon, of the tribe of Judah, offers a silver charger, a silver bowl, a golden spoon, a young bullock, a ram, a lamb, and a kid, for a Sin-Offering; two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs, for a Peace-Offering, Num 7:12-17. On the second day Nethaneel, of the tribe of Issachar, offers the like, Num 7:18-23. On the third day Eliab, of the tribe of Zebulun, offers the like, Num 7:24-29. On the fourth day Elizur, of the tribe of Reuben, offers the like, Num 7:30-35. On the fifth day Shelumiel, of the tribe of Simeon, made a similar offering, Num 7:36-41. On the sixth day Eliasaph, of the tribe of Gad, made his offering, Num 7:42-47. On the seventh day Elishama, of the tribe of Ephraim, made his offering, Num 7:48-53. On the eighth day Gamaliel, of the tribe of Manasseh, made his offering, Num 7:54-59. On the ninth day Abidan, of the tribe of Benjamin, made his offering, Num 7:60-65. On the tenth day Ahiezer, of the tribe of Dan, made his offering, Num 7:66-71. On the eleventh day Pagiel, of the tribe of Asher, made his offering, Num 7:72-77. On the twelfth day Ahira, of the tribe of Naphtali, made the same kind of offering, Num 7:78-83. The sum total of all vessels and cattle which were offered was twelve silver chargers, and twelve silver bowls; twelve golden spoons; twelve bullocks, twelve rams, and twelve kids; twenty-four bullocks, sixty rams, sixty he-goats, and sixty lambs, Num 7:84-88. The offerings being ended, Moses goes into the tabernacle, and hears the voice of the Lord from the mercy-seat, Num 7:89.
On the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle - The transactions mentioned in this chapter took place on the second day of the second month of the second year after their departure from Egypt; and the proper place of this account is immediately after the tenth chapter of Leviticus.
Six covered wagons - שש עגלת צב shesh egloth tsab, six tilted wagons, the Septuagint translate ἑξ ἁμαξας λαμπηνικας, with which the Coptic agrees; but what lampenic chariots were, no person pretends to know. Covered or tilted is probably the meaning of the original. The wagons were given for the more convenient exporting of the heavier parts of the tabernacle, which could not be conveniently carried on men's shoulders.
According to his service - That is, distribute them among the Levites as they may need them, giving most to those who have the heaviest burdens to bear.
Two wagons - unto the sons of Gershon - The Gershonites carried only the curtains, coverings, and hangings, Num 4:25. And although this was a cumbersome carriage, and they needed the wagons, yet it was not a heavy one.
Four wagons - unto the sons of Merari - Because they had the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets of the tabernacle to carry, Num 4:31, Num 4:32, therefore they had as many more wagons as the Gershonites.
Unto the sons of Kohath he gave none - Because they had the charge of the ark, table, candlestick, altars, etc., Num 4:5-15, which were to be carried upon their shoulders; for those sacred things must not be drawn by beasts.
And the princes offered - Every prince or chief offered in the behalf, and doubtless at the expense, of his whole tribe.
One silver charger - קערת kaarath, a dish, or deep bowl, in which they kneaded the paste. See Exo 25:29. One silver bowl - מזרק mizrak, a bason, to receive the blood of the sacrifice in. See on Exo 27:3 (note).
One spoon - כף caph, a censer, on which they put the incense. See Exo 25:29. It is worthy of remark that the different tribes are represented here as bringing their offerings precisely in the same order in which they encamped about the tabernacle. See Numbers 2 and Numbers 10.
Tribe Chief Verse Location 1. Judah Nahshon 12 2. Issachar Nethaneel 18 East 3. Zebulun Eliab 24 4. Reuben Elizur 30 5. Simeon Shelumiel 36 South 6. Gad Eliasaph 42 7. Ephraim Elishama 48 8. Manasseh Gamaliel 54 West 9. Benjamin Abidan 60 10. Dan Ahiezer 66 11. Asher Pagiel 72 North 12. Naphtali Ahira 78 It is worthy of remark also, that every tribe offers the same kind of offering, and in the same quantity, to show, that as every tribe was equally indebted to God for its support, so each should testify an equal sense of obligation. Besides, the vessels were all sacrificial vessels, and the animals were all clean animals, such as were proper for sacrifices; and therefore every thing was intended to point out that the people were to be a holy people, fully dedicated to God, and that God was to dwell among them; hence there were fine flour and oil, for a meat-offering, Num 7:13. A bullock, a ram, and a lamb, for a burnt-offering, Num 7:15, Num 7:16. Five oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five lambs, for a peace-offering, Num 7:17. Thus, as the priests, altars, etc., were anointed, and the tabernacle dedicated, so the people, by this offering, became consecrated to God. Therefore every act here was a religious act.
"Thus," says Mr. Ainsworth, "by sacrifices of all sorts, figuring the death of Christ, and the benefits that were to be received thereby, they reconciled and made themselves and theirs acceptable to God, and were made partakers of his grace, to remission of sins, and sanctification through faith, and in the work of the Holy Ghost, in the communion and feeling whereof they rejoiced before God."
On the seventh day - Both Jewish and Christian writers have been surprised that this work of offering went forward on the seventh day, which they suppose to have been a Sabbath, as well as on the other days. But
1. There is no absolute proof that this seventh day of offering was a Sabbath.
2. Were it even so, could the people be better employed than in thus consecrating themselves and their services to the Lord?
We have already seen that every act was a religious act; and we may rest assured that no day was too holy for the performance of such acts as are recorded here.
On the eleventh day - The Hebrew form of expression, here and in the 78th verse, has something curious in it. ביום עשתי עשר יום beyom ashtey asar yom, In the day, the first and tenth day; ביום שנים עשר יום beyom sheneym asar yom, In the day, two and tenth day. But this is the idiom of the language, and to an original Hebrew our almost anomalous words eleventh and twelfth, by which we translate the original, would appear as strange as his, literally translated, would appear to us. In reckoning after twelve, it is easy to find out the composition of the words thirteen, as three and ten, fourteen, four and ten, and so on; but eleven and twelve bear scarcely any analogy to ten and one, and ten and two, which nevertheless they intend. But this is a subject of philology rather than of Biblical criticism.
This was the dedication of the altar, in the day, etc. - Meaning here the time in which it was dedicated; for as each tribe had a whole day for its representative or prince to present the offerings it had provided, consequently the dedication, in which each had his day, must have lasted twelve days: the words therefore, in this text, refer to the last day or twelfth, in which this dedication was completed.
After that it was anointed - By the anointing the altar was consecrated to God; by this dedication it was solemnly appointed to that service for which it had been erected.
To speak with him - To confer with God, and to receive farther discoveries of his will. He heard the voice of one speaking unto him - Though Moses saw no similitude, but only heard a voice, yet he had the fullest proof of the presence as well as of the being of the Almighty. In this way God chose to manifest himself during that dispensation, till the fullness of the time came, in which the Word was made flesh, and Dwelt Among Us. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
The mercy-seat - See the note on Exo 25:17. As God gave oracular answers from this place, and spoke to Moses as it were face to face, hence the place was called the Oracle, דביר debir, or speaking place, from דבר dabar, he spoke, Kg1 6:23. And as this mercy-seat represented our blessed Redeemer, so the apostle says that God, who had at sundry times, and in divers manners, Spoken in time past to the fathers by the prophets, hath, in these last days, Spoken unto us by his Son. Heb 1:1, Heb 1:2. Hence the incarnated Christ is the true דביר debir or oracle, in and by whom God speaks unto man. On this occasion we find there were offered
12 silver chargers each weighing 130 shekels.
12 silver bowls, each 70 shekels.
Total amount of silver vessels 2,400 shekels.
12 golden spoons, each weighing 10 shekels.
Total amount of golden vessels 120 shekels.
oz. dwts. gr. A silver charger at 130 shekels reduced to troy weight makes 75 9 16 8/31 A silver bowl at 70 shekels amounts to 40 12 21 21/31 Total weight of the 12 chargers. 905 16 3 3/31 Total weight of the 12 bowls 487 14 20 4/31 Total 1393 10 23 7/31 Which, at 5s. per oz., is equal to 348 7s. 9d.
oz. dwts. gr. The 12 golden spoons, allowing each to be 5 16 3 3/31 Amount to 69 13 13 5/31 Which, at 4 per ounce, equals 278 14s. 2 1/2 d And added to the amount of the silver 348 7s. 9d. Make a total of 627 1s. 11d.
Besides the above there were
Bullocks 12 Rams 12 Lambs 12 Goats 24 Rams 60 He-goats 60 Lambs 60 - Total 240 clean beasts for sacrifice.
By which we may at once see that though the place in which they now sojourned was a wilderness, as to cities, villages, and regular inhabitants, yet there was plenty of pasturage, else the Israelites could not have furnished these cattle, with all the sacrifices necessary for different occasions, and especially for the passover, which was celebrated during their sojourning in the desert, and which itself must have required an immense number of lambs, (see Numbers 9) when each family of the 600,000 males was obliged to provide one for itself.